Gerringong Speedway once boasted Australia’s fastest cars but now is a quiet beach park – Business


Posted

November 02, 2019 06:30:58

For more than 100 years, horses, cars and motorbikes staged races at low tide on this beautiful stretch of sand which since has fallen silent as a national park.

Key Points:

  • During the 1920s and ’30s Seven Mile Beach was known as the Gerringong Speedway
  • Cars and motorcycles raced each other and tilted at land speed records
  • At low tide, the beach formed the perfect airstrip

Seven Mile Beach, which extends from Shoalhaven Heads near Nowra to Gerroa, was gazetted as a New South Wales National Park in 1971.

During the 1920s and 1930s the beach was known as the Gerringong Speedway and it played a significant role in the history of the motor car in Australia.

Throwback Thursday

Gerringong Speedway’s colourful past has come to light, through a Kiama Library initiative they have called ‘Throwback Thursday’.

Local studies librarian Rebecca Cook and her colleagues started a weekly Facebook event nine months ago, and they are thrilled by the enthusiasm for regional history.

“We started with just photos but then we decided to put a story with it and see if we can get people to start thinking about the past,” she said.

Ms Cook said the photos from the Seven Mile Beach “Gerringong Speedway” show the area was very popular for over 100 years.

“Before the cars, there was horse racing, back from the 1860s right up to when the cars started in early 1920s,” Ms Cook said.

“So it’s always been a social gathering place for the farmers and the locals.”

Speed records on Gerringong Beach

In 1925 Don Harkness (1890-1972) an automotive designer, driver and engineer set the Australian land speed record on Seven Mile Beach.

With an estimated 2,000 people cheering Harkness on, he reached a staggering 104 miles per hour, or 167kph.

The media lapped up the story at the time, extolling the virtues of the sea-scape environment and referred to it as ‘the greatest beach in the world’ for racing.

“When the motor invasion began at noon, the bronze-green walls of tea-tree and furze which dip down to the sea flung back the echoes of the thundering engines in a deafening way.

“The moan of the surf was smothered in the crackle of the cars. It was altogether a remarkable picture. Before the speed demons, stretched one of the finest beaches in Australia — hard as concrete, and with just that gentle incline that motorists relish.

“It swings away in a great crescent to a bold headland clothed in scrub.”

Source: Sydney, NSW: 1910 -1954; Sunday 10 May 1925, pg 2

In 1929 Norman Leslie Smith, commonly known as ‘Wizard Smith’ tried to break the 200 mile barrier but due to tide issues did not succeed, falling short at 129mph or 206kph.

Motorbikes also raced the beach strip during the 1930s and tilted at new speed records.

The Royal Automobile Club of Australia conducted reliability contests reaching high speeds on the beach.

Previously the Goulburn Motorcycle Club visited the beach in 1923, clocking 75mph on a four-cylinder Henderson Motorbike.

Kingsford-Smith’s maiden flight

In the boom era of the motorised vehicle, the sporting events were staged more like carnivals.

A front page article in 1925, The Sydney Sportsman promoted the beach, in “Motor Racing in the Boom.”

“At low tide the Seven Mile Beach has a stretch of sand nearly 100 yards wide, with a straight drive of five minutes available,” the article read.

And in 1933, the long, smooth hard beach was selected by Charles Kingsford-Smith for his maiden international voyage to New Zealand.

Low tide at 2:30am on the morning of January 11, more than 200 locals lit flares and turned on their car lights to help ‘Smithy’ see the runway

Libraries and their communities

As for sharing stories through pictures Ms Cook said libraries relish these opportunities to engage with their community.

“We love it when the locals bring in any photographs that they have and a story with it so that we can relate to the photo,” she said.

“Regional libraries are always looking for local stories to just get our history out there,” Ms Cook said.

Topics:

air-transport,

road-transport,

transport,

education,

community-and-society,

motor-sports,

sport,

history,

industry,

gerringong-2534,

kiama-2533,

sydney-2000,

sydney-airport-2020,

goulburn-2580,

wollongong-2500



Source link Business News Australia

Enter your Email Address

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social Media Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com